Motivated People Make Your Processes Run Well. Good Leadership is an Essential Part of Successful Digital Transformation.
John Chappelear is a multi-award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, with over 45 years of experience as an executive and entrepreneur.
John received a “US Presidential Letter of Commendation” and grew his businesses to sales of over 50 million dollars per year in just 10 years. He is the author of The Daily Six, which was awarded the Best Book award from USA BookNews.
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Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:07
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling. Every day they wasted time, effort and energy on repetitive tasks that added no value one day, the Better automation podcast by PROCESIO came to help them find the way. Because of this, these businesses, save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that. These businesses grow, scale and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz and I'm your host at Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO, where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to improve automation and your business's processes, and life. My guest today is John Chappelear. John is a multi award winning author, consultant, and speaker with over 45 years of experience as an executive and entrepreneur. John is recognized internationally as an expert in individual and organizational wellness, positive change, culture, communications and employee engagement. SHis programs help individuals reduce stress and organizations become more positive and productive. John's book The Daily six, six simple concepts to find the perfect balance between success and significance has been a worldwide success for individuals and organizations trying to become more positive and productive. The Daily Fix was awarded the Best Book Award from USA book news and is available in English and Arabic. Before beginning his consulting practice, John started build, ran and sold five companies in the Washington DC area found in his first company in the Washington DC area at the age of 30. In just 10 years, his first two companies grew from a staff of two to 250, with sales of over $50 million per year. And in 1988, John also received a US presidential letter of commendation from President Reagan for his commitment to improving the Washington DC area community. John lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and is gratefully married to Susan, they have three great kids and five terrific grandkids. John, how are you today?
John Chappelear 2:54
Thank you, I, I've had many interviews, but I've never had anyone seem to be in waiting to have as much fun as I see you clearly are ready to do so. I'm excited to be here. And I apologize for the for the length of that interview. I mean, the introduction, I had no idea, I guess, because as you get older, it just gets longer and longer and longer and longer. So when I was your age, it was very short. So now it's my age, and it's very long. So I do apologize for that extensive introduction,
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:25
I actually love it that gives a lot of context, a lot of ideas about what to speak about. And I'll ask you this, which is very, very important. A lot of businesses may be executives, they're thinking the buzzword is digital transformation and change management, which is what this podcast is all about. But what mistake or wrong assumption or wrong belief in general, do you believe they have that although they will see, like short term success doing this, maybe they're going in the wrong direction or not seeing the forest for the trees?
John Chappelear 4:03
Well, that's it happens actually happens more often than I like to, I like to see it happen. And more often than you would think is that once people begin to get into the concept of, well, we'll set this process in place and we'll eliminate these 20 employees will only need two employees to get the job done. And that may be exactly the case. The problem I find is that when people begin to rely on automation, they begin to think that they need to invest less time and less money in the people that they've kept. I have worked in, especially in in the Middle East in health care facilities where, you know, they're trying very hard to automate a number of systems to minimize burnout and be reduced stress, especially in the supply chain side of things and as they begin to, you know, reduce the number of people. It's very important and this was one of the The big changes that I created when I went in, which is, okay, you used to have 20 people, and now you have four. That's fantastic. But how well trained are the four. And if you ask management, management will tell you, they are very well trained, they know exactly what to do. But if you go and ask the for the for people who are actually doing the work, they'll say, Well, we used to know how to do it. But every time a new change comes in, we don't get updated on how that will affect our ability to perform at the level that we want to perform. The other thing that I noticed was, as people move from hand processing to automated processing, the people begin to see have a sense of that they're less valued, than they were before everything dependent upon their work. Now, it depends upon the automation systems. But if you have people who are not engaged, they're not committed, and they're not focused on your same goals. And they have the capacity to reach those goals, they have the training and the skills and the desire, then you will have, the biggest problem you'll have is you'll have them, the mistakes you'll be made will be made faster and faster and faster, because of the automation.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 6:19
Thank you. So if I understood you correctly, is two things. One, if because of automation, you need less people, you should invest more in training them as well as in making them feel valued rather than dispensable parts who could be caught similar to the other people that were laid off when automation happened. And therefore, that's an issue. And I have so many questions about this. But let's go to first principles thinking and I want to ask it in this way. Because, you know, there is this drive for efficiency. And I know I'm playing the devil's advocate, because this is an automation podcast. So it's like, touching efficiency is is somehow a taboo thing. But I will tell you this Do you find in life because there are two schools of thought? One is massive action, you should approach every project as if like, a man with his hair on fire approaches, water or whatever that then go on or thing? Or do you believe that actually, it's about slowness, it's like, do a few things so well, that they're exceptional. And give yourself time for your subconscious to learn for you to think for you to know like to see the big picture and focus on the I don't know, the 8020, the 595, or whatever that matters, because there are two schools of thought, again, one that will say, Look, if you do things in an excellent way that will be noticed, you'll stand out in the marketplace. And you'll do things right, while others say we live in a chaotic world, we don't know what will work. So we need as much data as possible. And therefore we should do a lot of have our bandwidth or the weapon carbine, the work in progress process fall to the limit, because we don't really know what will work we're dealing with uncertainty. So we're like, almost suffocating, running out of time. So we should do more. What's your perspective on this?
John Chappelear 8:16
Well, maybe it comes from being older, is that I'm not as crazy and and energized to accomplish as many things as possible as fast as possible. I do take a little longer approach now. But it's the key ingredient in leadership is the ability to move backward, back and forth. narrow focus wide focus back to narrow focus. You can't just say we need to accomplish as much as possible and the mistakes will sort of shake out. That's wonderful if you have an unlimited amount of resources to make mistakes. When I first started my first company, I took a loan against my house and started the company. And I had this much time to make things happen. So what I had to do was I had to make sure that every step along the way was right. But it also had to be done quickly. So I made sure that I had enough understanding of the process, I made sure that I just focused on the most profitable, most effective way to turn that the materials into profitability. And that made the business very successful. So I was in an industry that had the average person was probably carrying on hand 30,000 skews 30,000 items. When I opened my company we had 1000 items, because it was just the items that were would fill we would fill 90% of the orders with 1000 items. So what we did we fill those items and then we went back and On a second pass went through and picked the specific items that we needed to get to get the job done correctly. So it was a, it was a process of, like you said, fast, quick and profitable. And then we made a second pass rather than trying to do it all at the same time. The issue that I'm sorry, I'm sorry about that. The, the issue that I run into is that we get to a point where we are trying to move so quickly that we end up making errors, and the errors caused us to have to do the whole process over again, thereby doubling the amount of time it takes to do the work whether even if it's automated, a mistake is still a mistake. We have a Budweiser factory, was not a factory, it's a canning mix, all they do is make aluminum cans. And it's a frightening amount of aluminous millions of cans a day they make. And we went through a process about two or three years ago, where they they had made a mistake in trying to move the process forward just a little bit faster. Because even two or 3%, based on their volume made a huge difference. The problem is, is that what happened was the settings got done a little bit incorrectly, and they end up with millions of cans that they absolutely could not use, they just ended up crashing the aluminum recycling and putting it back in the front end of it again. And so they ended up a couple of days behind productivity rather than being ahead of it. So it's a matter of, of both leadership needs to pay attention to the details and the big picture and then move back to the details to make sure that they're on right. But the key ingredient is to make sure that if you have goals that are aligned with your, with your automation, they need to also be aligned and well ingrained in the minds of the people who are doing the work. The thing that is still going to get the product out the door, somewhere along the line, even if you go to Amazon, we have a huge Amazon distribution center here. And while they have as many automated processes as possible, it's still theirs, they still make mistakes. And there's and when they make mistakes, the mistakes get compounded on top of other mistakes. So because there's always some sort of a human element in it, we have a Bosch alone. Manufacturer here that just does contact lenses. And they went from hundreds of employees to two employees. Now the product goes in one end of a sealed up room, there's completely sealed, the product goes in one end. And literally boxes of contact lenses all sealed, wrapped, packaged and colored come out the other end. And all the people have to do is make sure that they're stacked correctly and out the door they go. But if they go to lunch at the wrong time, or aren't paying attention, the boxes continue to come out. And they end up in boxes, but they end up way behind schedule because they're not paying attention because they aren't committed to the task at hand. So your your point is exactly correct. There are two distinct rules of thought on this. But my thinking is both are critically important. You have to try as much as possible to improve as often as possible. But you must pay attention to each step along the way so that you don't get off track as you're moving forward. So I don't know if that's sitting on the fence too much. Or if it's if it's clear, but it's just really, I've seen huge differences changes in the same automated system with people who care about the outcomes, and people who don't care about the outcomes, but the system is the same. And when you change the commitment level of the people, the end product and the productivity mistakes go down, absenteeism goes down. And turnover goes down, those things affect automation tremendously, retraining, re onboarding, all these other kinds of problems that occur when you're not focused on caring for the people.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 14:18
Thank you. And I want us to discuss people on you know, give it enough space and time for us to speak about them. But first, I have a question that might be both related to an unrelated at the same time, because an entrepreneur might be listening right now and tell you, of course, if you're in a mature kind of industry where you know, you know, the end result is known and you're optimizing for that. Of course you're not. You're trying to avoid mistakes and to optimize for the least amount of loss of inefficiency and all that. But I'm an entrepreneur, I don't know if I'm making mistakes or not. because everything is chaotic. And therefore what would be your advice to a person in such a state where actually everything could be a mistake, and everything could be the right thing to do. And in life, the problem is the feedback loop is long, which means what you're doing today, you might not know whether it's right or wrong until 90 days, or 180 days or even years in the future, do get like that feedback that you've been doing the right thing all along, or just go in astray.
John Chappelear 15:31
My industry was, was a very established industry, the businesses that I ran, were not well established businesses, they were new businesses. Highly underfunded, because that's all the money came out of my pocket. There was no investors, there were no angels, it was nothing. So we had to make do with what we were doing. So it was a key ingredient was for us was to make sure that we I had two things. One is I had a tremendous amount of time and investment in the concepts that I wanted to deliver. What I went into business to do with an established industry was I knew the techniques I wanted to use to modernize my clients expectations and results. I didn't go into the business to sell more of these, I went into business to make the client happier with the end result. So we we invested tremendous amounts of money in, in focus groups, and in talking with clients, and and making sure that we had constant a constant feedback of how are we doing? What are we doing? How can we improve this? Because it didn't, doesn't make any sense for me to sit in a room all by myself as an entrepreneur, they should realize that, where your best advice is going to your ideas are going to come from here. And your feedback is going to come from your customers. And so this has to feed back and forth has to be my ideas are here, I'm getting feedback from my customers. I'm tweaking what I'm thinking here. So it has to be it. It has to be very attended to and if you're not, you'll run out, you'll run out of capital, long before you realize the mistakes you made. You remember the the phrase that Steve Jobs used to say was, you know, never expect people to understand what you are going to sell them. I mean, he provided products that no one had ever heard of before, realize that there was a potential expectation that people were moving in this direction. But the reason he knew that was one, he was a really, he was unique in an industry that was evolving rapidly. But if you go back, back 150 to 200 years, Henry Ford said, If I delivered what my customers wanted, what they wanted was a faster horse. Okay. And what he built them was a car they could afford, not a faster horse. So and the reason that he was successful is he understood what what the client wanted, and then evolved that from his entrepreneurial thinking. And the thing that makes entrepreneurs fun is entrepreneurialism. I mean, I've owned all the businesses I've started, I've built myself, grown them sold them. It's a lot of fun. But entrepreneurialism is chaos. I mean, it really is. I mean, it's like let's try this, let's try that. No, that doesn't work. Okay, there's, and that's fine, as long as you have feedback from your customers. And I always made sure that I had an advisory board that was made up of customers, industry leaders, financial people, so that it wasn't just because what an entrepreneur tends to be is a salesman at heart salesperson at heart. I mean, if you go back and look at the original components, that jobs put together for Apple was way too expensive. Everything that he made was just outrageously expensive. And it wasn't until he was able to scale up, that he was able to bring the cost of these items down. So you can spend, if you have the investors, you can spend a year on the finish. On on this on the way in which this piece fits into this glass, you know, but if you're an entrepreneur and you have a reasonable you have only this much time and money, then you have to work on what is the most important component that the client wants. If you don't know what that is, then having a great idea that's not practical or applicable. Doesn't really do a lot of good. The entrepreneur has got to be in tune with his ideas, but the client's needs.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 19:41
Thank you. And it reminds me of Dan Sullivan, who says and entrepreneurship, the only measure of a good idea. Is it someone willing to write a check a check for it? If not, then it's a bad idea. That's the only measure and I will play the devil's advocate a little bit because I want us to discuss people So, there are some systems thinkers and people who are entirely black box. Like situations within businesses who say, human beings are 100% their behavior is influenced and dictated even by the system and the environment that you cannot escape the constraints of a system. And therefore, people don't matter. What matters is that you build system systems that are so reliable, so organized, that even a monkey could do it. And therefore, if you lose a team member or someone your business is not in jeopardy, because if you leave it too focused on people's abilities, skills and all that, eventually you'll lose a person for whatever reasons, it could be even just a mental breakdown or divorce or anything like that. And therefore your business is basically handicapped. So what are what is your counter argument or thoughts on this? And as well as should people focus more on systems than on people or anyway, on people more than systems no matter what?
John Chappelear 21:06
Well? The answer is sort of the the old, famous accounting adage, which is, it depends. It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. But it really is both. I mean, you Well, except for the fact that people are dispensable, you can just get rid of all the people you want run your system. I know a lot of business owners who would love to find a way to do that, because people are complicated. They create lots of complications, they do have divorces, they have bad days they have they make mistakes. I mean, humans are terrible to have on to work on a work floor. But that's why it has to be you have to build the systems, like you said, you have to have the systems for the products. And you have that the culture for the people. So they have to and they have to run in parallel. If you have a great system, terrible people, it's not going to work particularly well, if you have great people, but a terrible system is not going to work well either. I mean, Deming said, if you have a problem with your your people and your system, most of the time, the problem will be with the system. So what we have to do is we have to focus on making sure that the people who do show up at work, even if it's less and less and less every year, they are focused on and committed to the goals. I mean, I sound like I'm saying the same things again and again. But it is really important that we focus on the culture, because what you said is important. I mean, if if the person you were just talking about was going through a divorce or death in the family, or parents had cancer, or any hundreds of things that could happen, and they're coming to work, this is going to impact their ability to run your system. Now, should you just get rid of that person and throw another person in, in the in the same space? The answer is, in my estimation, no, but we're not at that. I mean, as far as I could tell, I've not been in a system where that was, people were just, you know, you could just pop a person out and pop another person in. I mean, I haven't, I haven't ever run into a system where that's, that's actually something you could do. So you have to make sure one of the things that is very important is to hire based on the people that are available, not the people that you wish were available. You know, I wish I had a person that was as smart and capable as Aziz. Well, if I can't find one of those, that well, it's almost impossible to find another Aziz. So, you know, so what do I do, I have to go find somebody who can actually show up and do the work. A great example of of automation, as you were talking about, and people being able to be replaceable, McDonald's when they were first, really starting to grow back in the 70s. McDonald's is the company that invented the cash register, that gave you the change, you didn't have to figure out what the change was, okay? They just put in however much it was however much the person gave him the change came down the chute, and the person just handed it to them. And that saved a tremendous amount of money because the people who were applying for those jobs did not understand money, they did not understand how to make change, they did not understand any of those things. So it was either spend 10s of millions of dollars a month on training people to make change or create a machine that did it for them. It's the same thing with again, this is hire the people that that you can that are applying for the jobs if they're not high end people, then you have to train them right or find a system I mean, they're the that's the reason you know, we think we have a again keeping it very simple. Every single fast food company now has a number one, a number two or number three and number four, medium sized. Those that's taking the choices smaller so the mister A potential is getting smaller, and smaller and smaller, and they have pictures, I want that the point, they can point to the picture. And the person sees the picture lines that up with the cash register pushes the button and the change comes down. So all of a sudden, I don't need to understand about a burger or the fries, or the soda or the change or anything else, I just had to take this, give it to the customer take their money. Next, please. So the system has to be effective. But you have to make sure that based on the people you have, I mean, if McDonald's had left their old systems in place, because what was happening was they were they were getting high end hiring kids, they were getting high school kids in high school, graduating kids going to college. And all of a sudden, they stopped coming to those jobs. And they started getting more people who were just beginning to get into the workforce or people who were just immigrating into the United States. And all of a sudden, the capacity for them to understand and move more quickly dropped dramatically. This is the problem that Amazon is having right now with whether or not they're going to unionize. I mean, I can't even imagine what Amazon will look like if it becomes unionized. But it's, it's, it's really, I mean, your point earlier on is that people do make a mess of things. There's no doubt about it. But I have yet to have seen a system, I've seen a lot of systems that run pretty autonomously. But somewhere along the line, a human was in there, making it creating it, intellectually creating it physically, or setting it up and putting it in place physically, and then coming back and maintaining it, repairing it, and moving it forward. So it's, I don't know, it's, it's a hard it's a hard position to pick, I can't say no humans, and I can't say no automation, it really has to be both connected, working in harmony with each other. And you can't pay more attention to the humans and you can't pay more attention to the automation has to be both equal both. Both important.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 27:15
Thank you. And I'll play the devil's advocate, again, a little bit where you mentioned, you said hire based on the people that are available not on based on those you wish you were available. There are some schools of thought when it comes to HR and recruiting and all that that says, you know, selection of people buys you a lot more than training, and that you cannot put lipstick on a pig. And that having a plus players on your team is a million times better than having mediocre, like automaton people who are just doing what they're told, and using the pictures like you mentioned, and all that, know that you should wait longer and vet people and test them and projects and hire slow and fire fast and all that stuff. So okay, two schools of thought. One is either those people are so rare. So take what you have, and do what you do with it. Because your business cannot just stay at a standstill waiting for you to find this unicorn person, while others will say if you have such people, your business will just multiply if they're smart, your your will be the person who's not the smartest one in the room. And that's the best position to be in. What's your perspective on this?
John Chappelear 28:29
I think your point about them being the unicorn is probably realistic. I've hired I've hired 1000s of people and fired 1000s of people. So I understand the position. And but the reality is, is that, you know, I would be a great person to hire, I know my position. I know how what comes to me, has to be right. And I know what it's supposed to look like when it goes away from me. But you can't afford me It can't afford me to be working in very many places. So the issue is, it has to be a combination of training, training, and engagement. Because when you get the person when you find your unicorn, if you if you are smart enough to grab them and keep them that can be very expensive. But what you want to make sure is that you have you're not going to have a whole room full of unicorns, otherwise they wouldn't be unicorns. They wouldn't be you know, they wouldn't be unique. They just be good people. So it's really important to have one or two good people if you can afford them that great. But that's why systems automation systems are is really important because you can't always find those kinds of people. So what you want is you want a system in place that works with the average person. Okay, the average employee you find your system works 100% perfectly, okay. So that way, when you find a person who's a little below performance, you can get rid of them and put another person. But if you find a person or two who is above average, the system will run even better, even more quickly, even more smoothly. But if you lose that person, then the system moves back to average and normal it within the normal parameters. So that's what I mean by you know, finding, finding the people that fit the job, and you want your system to work effectively with the people you can find to do the job at the price you can afford. If I just waited till all I could do is find a whole bunch of, you know, smart, capable, independent, right person, right job, tremendous experience all these other things. If I just waited till I had a whole department full of those people, I would probably go broke waiting for them to come to work here. The thing I will also say, and I forgot about this, because the last business I ran this is exactly what happened was we built a company where the reputation the client reputation of our business was so high, their expectations were met so frequently, that when we were looking for unicorns, when we were looking for the top salesperson, when we were looking for the top finance management people, when we were looking for the top systems designers, they applied for jobs, to work with us, because we had the best reputation in the industry. So if you have a company that's highly engaged with people who care and people who feel successful, when you're looking for more of them, where you will find them is in your competition, because I can guarantee your competition is not thinking like that. They're thinking about how to make more money, rather than how to improve my systems to make more money, but focusing on the systems first and the people first and then the money will take care of itself. If you have good people, they will come to you. What you'll end up with is if you have a poor organization, the good people will leave. And pretty soon you'll just have a whole company full of people who have no options, and you don't want that. Okay, well my website is my name, John Chapel here.com. And I'm sure somewhere on the screen, my name is there. So the spelling chapel here is not as hard as you would think. So just John Chapel here.com. My email address is John at John chevalier.com. So if you want to send me an email, that's easy enough. Most of the social media is connected through J. W, chapel here or John chapel here. So if you type in my name, the whole page will show up have ways to contact me. What I'm working on right now is a program that talks about the importance of emotion in building this connection. Words that leadership never really talked about before certainly when not when I was a younger person, which is concepts like love, forgiveness, gratitude, service, changing this changing the focus from you know, what am I going to get here to what am I going to give? What am I going to put into the relationships rather than what am I going to get out of them? Because I have found that the more I focus on making other people successful, my success is almost always guaranteed. So it is a it's a series of interviews that I'm doing with with my my book coach, Linda veteris Nichols. And she and I are working on a series of videos there. Some of them are now up on my video channel, which is John Chevalier on YouTube. And we'll be adding to those as we go along. I don't do a lot of traveling gratefully, just because I don't I don't have to do a lot of traveling anymore. But I'm certainly available for consulting and coaching. A lot of I do a lot of conversations one on one. Mostly these days it's simply kind of like what you and I were just been doing I'm trying to think about this what do you think about a way to make that work better? How would I make this work better? How would I My people are unhappy, how can I make them happier? My systems aren't running fast enough how can we make it run faster? And, and that's pretty much what I'm working on. So I The book is called The Daily six. And that's available on Amazon from you know, hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook and it got it did get translated into Arabic because of just I was doing so much work in in the MENA region, Middle East North Africa region that a client in Egypt actually had the client paid to have the book republished in Arabic. So I felt very, I felt very humbled that they felt positive enough about the material to want to do that. So I was very grateful for them.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 35:30
Thank you. I'm grateful as well for this conversation. I support you to keep going because you have a lot of wisdom of experience. And, you know, I feel you reach that stage where it's not about telling people what they want to hear, but actually the truth that you have experienced again and again, and again. And of course, before we conclude, I cannot not recommend PROCESIO, without it this podcast wouldn't be possible. PROCESIO is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation, creating your processes, and creating any enterprise grade backend for your software. Anybody listening can get a fully free account at PROCESIO.app, and those who need more power, more time, more execution ability, you can get a totally generous 50% discount code that you can use when upgrading it's BETTER50OFF one word in capital letters. More information in the description, John, this was my honor, my privilege, one of the greatest greatest episodes and I wish you a great day.
John Chappelear 36:42
Thank you as always, I wish you the same and enjoy. Enjoy the peace of the day as it comes to you.